What is Metadata and why do I need it?

Metadata. It’s a relatively small word but not many people really know what it means, and how to use it to manage creative content. But it’s VERY important. 
The most widely used definition of metadata is that it’s information about information. Think of a book. A book’s metadata would be details such as the author, the book’s subject, the language it is written in and the publisher.
Now, take a song. Regardless of whether this song is digital or analogue, the metadata would include details such as genre, the composer, the record label and the place it was recorded. 

Similarly, for an image or a video, the metadata would include the creator’s name, the title of the file, it’s description, camera information, file size, date created, keywords and copyright information. 
See, metadata really is data about data or, put more simply, it’s just a really detailed description about the digital file. 

But how does all this extra information help my business?

One of the core functions of your DAM is how easy it is for people to search for assets. Metadata dramatically impacts the performance of the search results if they are.
No matter how powerful your DAM’s search functionality, if your files contain little or no metadata, it will be difficult to find resources you need quickly or without performing numerous, additional searches – which are a complete waste of time.

To get an idea of the time-saving benefits of metadata, look at the image above, titled “Woman Looking Up” and imagine it was part of your stock image library.
It contains an image of a young, lady with blonde hair, looking up.
Logically, when searching for a photo of a happy employee for, say, a banner ad, your agency isn’t going to type in ‘Woman Looking Up.’
They would, more likely, search for images that describe the image situation, such as blonde, lady, woman, girl, female, upward gaze, horizontal, etc.

The results of this tiny, seemingly innocuous, procedure would be that your creative director would not likely ever find this image unless a range of keyword data were associated with the file.  The consequences of not finding the image could range from them spending extra money purchasing another costly stock image; that they may re-use an old image that the company is only licensed to use once or, worst of all, they may just breach someone else’s copyright and use an unauthorised image.
All three scenarios create huge inefficiencies – and they’re completely avoidable.

By adding strategic metadata to the image when it is uploaded to your Digital Asset Management platform, you can ensure that files don’t go missing in your DAM but instead – are always found.

The number of additional metadata terms included will ensure this image shows up in at least 12 more searches, but if you were to add dates, versioning, colour information or even more allied terms, suddenly, despite being incorrectly named, this versatile little file will start showing up much more often.

What’s the best way to structure my Metadata?

The structure of your metadata is called Taxonomy – or in other words – the fields you want to capture, and the hierarchy of keywords. Your taxonomy can be developed in your DAM software. From a best practice perspective, the following areas are important to consider when developing your taxonomy structure.
1. Your organisation: Your metadata shouldn’t only relate to the content of your files and creative assets, but rather, you should also tag them as to how they relate to your business. Metadata is a great way to define a file by your products, brands, markets/geographies and themes (i.e. families, women, men).

2. The file: Information relating to the title, description, who the file was created by and when, as well as the date of creation, the file type, the file’s unique ID, etc.

3. Copyright information: Metadata relating to copyright, ownership, licensing, renewal date and other usage information should always be included, especially when dealing with digital assets owned by third-parties or even internal assets related to your own branding. Having this will ensure you avoid hefty penalty fees by using images without permission.  

Here’s a downloadable infographic that will help you think about the best way to structure your digital assets using a metadata taxonomy.